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Former LTTE combatants at a rehabilitation centre

Having reflected a couple of months back, after the Emergency Debate, on the changes we were able to achieve over the last couple of years, I thought this time I should consider a few more things that could be done. I will do this in the context of the remarks made by the Opposition during the debate, since I believe we should take seriously the serious points they raise, even while regretting the knots into which they have tied themselves through their relentless and unprincipled opposition to government.

This was most apparent in the counterpoint as it were between the pronouncements of General Sarath Fonseka, and the issues raised by some minority politicians who were forced, due to the infinite genius of the Leader of the Opposition, to have supported the General during the Presidential Election. One has already granted that this was a mistake, but I felt in particular sorry for the members of the TNA, as they engaged in criticism of the cantonments that they felt were springing up all over the North.

In this context I wondered how many of them remembered the General’s reason, as expressed in his letter of resignation, for distrust springing up between him and the President. He claimed it was because the President vetoed his plan to increase the army by 100,000 men. Taken in conjunction with his claim that the displaced were being released far too quickly, without proper attention to security concerns, it seems clear that, if there was any plan to change the demography of the North by planting it with soldiers, on the lines of the old Roman Empire, it was inspired by him. Fortunately the President thought otherwise, and said so graphically, as the General’s letter makes clear.

My own view is that security requirements must be paramount, and therefore military outposts in select areas should not be a problem. However I would agree that government needs to minimize inconvenience, and in this regard rationales for any particular choices should be made clear, along with systems of compensation that will be implemented as necessary.

But there is also another area in which reassurance could easily be provided, and that is by making it clear that the security forces are representative of the entire Sri Lankan state, and not merely of one of its components. In this context government would do well to consider the agreements reached shortly after the institution of Provincial Councils, that the armed forces would reflect the population of the country. This was a very positive step, because it affirmed the fact that, whatever responsibilities were devolved, the responsibility for security would remain with the central government. Equity in this regard would be ensured by making the armed forces of the country representative of the country as a whole, working under a unified central command.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

August 2010
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